What is mail art?
Honoria Starbuck Ph.D.
Give your art away to strangers?
Exhibiting means putting your work into a mailbox and waiting?
Artworks arrive to you from around the world.
The mailbox becomes your museum.
Mail art is a network, an old network, 45 years old, and still very much a low-tech network. Mail artists are tactile creators who feel a sensuous appreciation of mail marked by passage through the postal systems.
To learn about mail art you must participate. Your first piece of mail art is a puzzle piece. Each piece of mail you receive builds a bit more of your personal concept of the whole network. No two mail artists have the same view of the network and the network is always in flux. Your picture of the whole is always growing and changing.
How do you start giving away your art into this strange evolving system and what do you get in return? There are hundreds of mail art exhibitions every year. Mail art exhibitions are organized around themes. The themes are posted on the Web, through zines, and via individual mailings. To find a list of current themes subscribe to bnet e-zine / mail art bulletin c/o Bruno Capatti, via Italo Luminasi 22, 40059 Medicina (Bologna), Italy or send email to to firstname.lastname@example.org. A Web search for Mail Art Calls or Mail Art Invitations will come up with lists such as Kiyotei’s mail art call list at http://www.art.net/~kiyotei/mailart/. Once you find a list of mail art calls with themes and sponsors’ addresses, make artworks relating to the themes. Then mail your art to the sponsors. All work is shown in a mail art exhibition, there is never a jury or selection process. The show may be in a coffee house, a studio, a city space, a university, or a museum. A response may come in several forms ranging from an email or photocopied sheet listing all the participants and their addresses, notice of a Web site on which all the work is shown, or even a full-color printed catalog of the exhibition. Some mail artists who sponsor an exhibition obtain funding or city sponsorship to create beautiful catalogs, others produce personal low-budget documentation of the event. If you decide to sponsor a mail art show you are responsible for providing documentation to all who participate.
Are you a mail artist? Mail art is a network; an always-changing community; a set of responsibilities to give and receive gracefully, to show all work, and to document exhibitions. Mail art is a global exhibition space and an unlimited audience for your work facilitated by the postal systems and the Web, and waiting for you to join at your pleasure.
More information on the Mail Art Network
History of Mail Art
MAIL ART 1955 TO 1995: Democratic art as social sculpture by Michael Lumb, 1997
Defintion of mail art at Wikipedia
Introduction to Mail Art Networking
Kiyotei’s Den listing of calls to current mail art exhibitions